19 Things You Didn’t Know About Aquavit

If someone were to ask you to name the most well-known or common liquors on the market today, you’d probably say whisky, vodka, tequila, brandy, and gin. But there’s another liquor you might not know too much about that deserves some attention. It’s called aquavit. And Norwegian aquavit or other varieties certainly deserve your attention.

You might not hear much about aquavit, and even professional bartenders will tell you it’s not a typical request on a Saturday night. However, Norwegian aquavit is quite the celebrated spirit among many circles. And it’s a downright fan-favorite drink in many other countries and cultures. Here’s a list of other things you may not know about aquavit. Learn some incredible aquavit trivia to impress your friends. And this list may just inspire you to add aquavit to your roster of favorite liquors and spirits to enjoy!

1. It’s the National Spirit in Scandinavia

Did you know that the official national spirit in Scandinavia is aquavit? Visiting any of these northern European countries, including Denmark, Sweden, Finland, or Norway, you’ll find it’s one of the most celebrated and popular liquors on the menu. Aquavit, also known as akvavit, typically represents flavors that are already popular in the region, including hearty ryes, pickled herring, smokey fish, and strong cheeses. It’s a historically legendary drink, perfect for sipping with meals and essential in toasting celebrations. 

2. Where Aquavit Is Made

Predominantly a Scandinavian-celebrated spirit, you can find aquavit varieties in production among the following countries.

  • Sweden is the most prominent aquavit producer, responsible for 20 brands.
  • Norway makes less aquavit but still maintains one of the most favorite brands, Linie Aquavit. It’s shipped to Australian consumers in oak containers giving it a unique, mellow flavor.
  • If you enjoy aquavit in Finland, expect it to have hints of cinnamon flavors.
  • Denmark’s best-known brands include Aalborg akvavit, which was named by a northeastern coastal town of residents.

And yes, aquavit is also being distilled right here in the United States, with the Norwegian methods of production.

3. It’s Delightful Among Dill and Caraway Fans

Are you a fan of rye bread? Do you crave dill-flavored foods and condiments? If you are, you’ll likely become a fan of the unique taste of aquavit. Aquavit is a naturally distilled spirit derived from the potato or grains, much like a traditional gin or vodka. However, aquavit is additionally flavored with caraway as well as dill, both high-profile flavors in a variety of foods. Fall in love with aquavit for its caraway and dill today, and then start exploring some of its other unique flavors, including coriander, anise, and citrus.

4. Norwegian Aquavit Was Believed to Have Mystical Healing Powers

The name “aquavit” comes from the Latin roots of “aqua vitae,” which means “water of life.” Some of the first aquavit distillers also subscribed to the belief that their spirits possessed healing powers. Alcohol varieties, especially those infused with herbs like aquavit, have long since been viewed as drinks with health properties that ward off aging and disease. It was often prescribed to help with treating patients during the Black Death period, as well.

5. Aquavit As a Popular Aperitif

Not all liquors or spirits can be categorized as quality aperitifs. But aquavit sure is, and is often selected to be, the perfect before-dinner drink. Citing the deep rye and caraway flavors as great methods for cleansing the palate before a meal, many aquavit enthusiasts insist on serving it. Additionally, aquavit can be great for jump-starting your appetite, ideal as a before-dinner sip.

6. Aquavit Is Great for Digesting Rich Foods

Aquavit, still today, is highly regarded as a great spirit to enjoy with dinner and dining celebrations. Because of its natural caraway and fennel ingredients, it’s great for your digestive system, especially when digesting dense or rich foods. If you’re planning a big meal, treat your guests to aquavit for its flavorful enrichment and its digestion-friendly properties as a digestif.

7. A Popular Toasting Drink for the Vikings

Don’t just celebrate your special occasion; bring in the aquavit and toast like a Viking! Traditional toasts for the Nordic countries, whereby guests all raise their glasses and announce “Skol,” are still common. And aquavit is the toasting spirit of choice. Remember, when you do “Skol” in the traditional Viking way, you’ll also need to make eye contact the entire time you shoot your aquavit.

8. You Can Make Aquavit at Home

You don’t have to travel to Denmark or Sweden to enjoy a quality aquavit. In fact, savvy brewers can craft their own aquavit at home. Surprisingly, home varieties and methods don’t require distillation. You can even get a starter recipe that begins with vodka. Infuse it with fresh dill, caraway seeds, fennel seeds, lemon zest, and star anise. After steeping for a few days, you’ll be able to enjoy your homemade aquavit!

9. Aquavit Is Great in Bloody Mary’s

Did you know you can use aquavit for a variety of cocktail favorites? Substitute other traditional spirits in Bloody Mary drinks or even the Barents Sea Collins. And while most Norwegian aquavit enthusiasts prefer their drinks simply chilled and unmixed, you can explore a host of tasty cocktail recipes with aquavit as the primary liquor. Try your hand at mixing a cranberry aquavit and tonic or the Nordic Summer, which is made with aquavit, Aperol, and lime juice. And another aquavit favorite that’s gaining popularity in the U.S. is the Aquavit Negroni.

10. Norwegian Aquavit Can Be Different 

Depending on where your aquavit was made or where you are regionally when you enjoy it, there will be a different look and taste. For example, in Denmark, you can expect a clear aquavit. But in Norway, where there is a long tradition of cask-aging, your aquavit will mature with hints of vanilla, giving it a yellowish hue. One of the most respected Norwegian aquavit brands is Linie Aquavit because it taps into this unique aging process. 

11. There’s a Norwegian Aquavit Day and Dedicated Association to the Famed Spirit

Aquavit is so dominant in Norway it has its own association with more than 7,500 members called the Norwegian Friends of Aquavit. Additionally, there’s an inn located in Oslo that serves 435 different aquavit brands. And the nation celebrates Aquavit Day on April 13th every year. For the Norwegians, aquavit is more than a drink; it represents a celebrated culture. The association was founded in 1999 and continues to welcome new members today!

12. There are 200 Drinking Songs Dedicated to Aquavit

It might not be as well-known yet here in the states, but abroad, aquavit is quite the celebrity spirit. It’s enjoyed year-round in most Scandinavian countries, and especially during the holidays. You’ll find tons of festivals and celebrations dedicated to the iconic spirit, including May 17th, Constitution Day for Norwegians. And if you’re among the Swedish or Danish partygoers, be prepared to join in raucous drinking songs, with more than 200 titles involving aquavit. There are even annual competitions in Stockholm, where locals compete in writing new aquavit celebration songs.

13. There Are Unique Aquavit Drinking Styles

However you decide to drink your aquavit, just know there’s no right or wrong way to enjoy it. Aquavit isn’t a cocktail snob at all; always happy to be served wherever and whenever people are enjoying themselves. Some like it neat and kept in the freezer. Others prefer it with coffee during the chilly winter months, called a Kaffenpunch. Bartenders here in the U.S. are starting to see it more as a mixer request. And whether you enjoy it by sipping during a meal or as a shot to celebrate, aquavit is a great option.

14. It’s Not a Schnapps

Among Scandinavian cultures, aquavit is sometimes called a “snaps” or “schnapps.” But it’s only called that because it can easily be consumed as a toss-back shot. It’s not at all related to the schnapps varieties you might encounter here in the U.S. American schnapps is sweetened with fruits, spearmint aromatics, or licorice. There’s nothing sweet about an authentic aquavit, though. So, even if the Danes and the Swedish cultures call it a “snaps,” it’s not to be confused with the schnapps you might have in your liquor cabinet right now.

15. Alcohol Values in Aquavit

Because aquavit can be made much like the distilling process associated with the production of gin or vodka, you might assume it has the same alcohol content. However, by an EU decree, aquavit must be distilled with caraway and/or dill and must have a minimum alcohol by volume of at least 37.5%. Most aquavit varieties will average 40% ABV.

16. Some of the Top Aquavit Brands to Sample First

If you’re new to aquavit, you’ll want your first sampling to be spectacular. Check out these popular aquavit brands to sip and find your favorites.

  • O.P. Anderson [Swedish Aquavit]
  • Aalborg [Danish Akvavit]
  • Lysholm Linie [Norwegian Aquavit]
  • Krogstad [American Akvavit]
  • Brennivín [Icelandic Akvavit]
  • Gamle Ode Dill [American Aquavit]
  • Ole Bjørkevoll [American Akvavit]
  • North Shore [American Aquavit]
  • Bareksten Botanical [Norwegian Akvavit]
  • Skadi Aquavit [American Aquavit]

17. Aquavit Is Produced Sustainably, Even by Today’s Standards

Back in the day, aquavit production was inspired by farmers who faced challenges with growing grains. They switched to potatoes for a more sustainable method. They could use the potato itself for food and reserve the potato peels for distilling spirits. Even the byproducts of the distilling process were used to feed cattle, improving milk production. Today’s aquavit methods follow the same procedures. Aquavit continues to be sustainably produced by using all the parts of the potato with little to no waste.

18. Norwegian Aquavit Is Splashing Big in the U.S.

If you’re champing at the bit now to get your hands on a bottle of aquavit, you’ll start to see it offered more frequently at your favorite liquor stores. Your local bars might not yet carry it, but soon will as the growing popularity of this Scandinavian spirit continues to surge. And because Americans love their flavor varieties, you’ll likely be seeing a host of new aquavit tastes and aromas. Look for traditional, caraway-infused aquavit, along with new variations that include mints, orange peels, and hints of allspice.

19. More Than 40 Aquavit Distilleries in the U.S.

If you want to enjoy a tasty Norwegian aquavit, you can find more than 40 different distilleries right now in the U.S. currently producing this legendary liquor. Jacob Grier started “Aquavit Week” here in the states back in 2012 to celebrate and drive awareness of this iconic spirit. Some say he may have pioneered the recent movement to include aquavit in cocktails and drinks. And as you start to broaden your liquor horizons to include aquavit, you’ll find it more readily available to enjoy wherever you choose to celebrate, dine, or relax with a drink.

Add aquavit to your list of must-try spirits this year! And remember, when you’re ready to find the nearest distillery for a tour or new flavors of all your favorite liquors, let Distillery Nearby be your guide! 

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